They largely involved dragging him off someplace to be the face of the Republic military, in spite of the fact that he was definitely not at its head. No, being one of the heroes of the Star Forge was enough for that. Not that he considered it a particular victory, but the rest of the galaxy didn't know the story as well as he did. This time, it was Coruscant, at some sort of important banquet. He could at least have his family along, which made things a bit better, but since arriving on Coruscant the triplets had taken their usual higgledy-piggledy antics to a new level, including Nevara's inexplicable loss of her right sleeve on the airbus. Carth still hadn't figured out how she'd managed that in the five seconds he'd looked away. To make things even more interesting, Bryce had contracted food poisoning from a bad bunch of guunga fruits at one of the nicer restaurants they'd dined earlier in the day.
He sometimes wondered how he'd had three children thrust on him at once, but truth be told, he had missed having kids around. The girls, Nevara and Anna, were the sweetest little troublemakers he had ever known, and Bryce put up with being the odd one out very philosophically. The chances of their being on their best behaviour were sporadic on a good day, but they were good kids. Even if they'd begged him incessantly since arriving on Coruscant to buy them a pet that was more fur than animal, and closely resembled a neon toupee.
Lost in his musings, he almost didn't hear the small voice behind him. "Daddy, will you tell me a story?"
Carth turned around in his chair. Bryce stood in the doorway to the common room, clutching a stuffed Ewok toy and a blanket trailing behind him. "Bryce, you should be in bed- you're sick."
Bryce stuck out his lower lip. "But I can't sleep. Tell me a story, please? I promise I'll go to sleep if you tell me a story."
"Oh…" Carth knew he should send him straight back to bed, but what harm could a story do? "Come here." He patted his knee, and Bryce scampered up as fast as he could. "So, what story would you like to hear?"
Bryce seemed to contemplate this for a moment. "How about… the one about the pirates?"
"Uhh… the Pirates of Penzance!
Carth scratched his head. "I don't think I know that one."
"You've gotta know that one, daddy. It's got a Pirate King, and a general, and sword fights, and… and… a pair of ducks!"
Must've been one his mother told him. I'll have to see about getting that story from her sometime. "Sorry, bud, I'll have to tell you something else."
Bryce looked disappointed, but quickly came up with another option. "How about the story where you and mommy had to escape the lost planet?"
"Bryce, that's a kind of scary story."
"Please?" Bryce's large brown eyes looked up at him pleadingly. "I promise I won't get scared."
"Your mother would have my hide if she heard me telling this story at this time of night… but all right." Carth shifted slightly in his chair, and made sure Bryce was comfortable. "It was a lot of years ago…"
Something had gone horribly wrong. He could feel it. The inevitability of the disaster to come was gnawing at his nerves. Pacing outside the Ebon Hawk, he waited impatiently for Aiden, Jolee, Juhani, and Leiraya to return from the Temple of Ancients. The ship was fixed and ready to travel, but there was nothing he could do until Aiden came back and told him if the disrupter shield had been successfully disabled.
After what seemed like hours, he finally saw Aiden coming round the bend, Bastila in tow. He was overjoyed to see that the young Jedi had been rescued, but the immediate reaction was cut short by his second observation- neither Jolee, Juhani, nor Leiraya were there.
"Bastila- you're alive! Aiden, I'm so glad you found her… but where are the others?"
Aiden looked at him darkly, causing Carth to unconsciously take a step back. "They were casualties."
"Casualties? They're… they're dead?" Carth fumbled for words. "But how?"
"How? It doesn't matter." Aiden shook his head, his voice laced with bitterness. "Dead, alive, somewhere in between… all are casualties."
Carth looked over to Bastila, hoping to draw some sort of explanation from her, but she merely smirked and laughed. "We wouldn't expect you to understand."
"You… you've both turned to the Dark Side!" Carth shouted angrily. "I can't believe this- you don't have to do this, Aiden."
"My name isn't Aiden," he growled. "That's some sort of fake, trumped-up identity the Jedi Council foisted upon me. Revan is the only identity I actually know I ever had."
"But that's not who you are- who you've been since I met you."
"Don't you get it? Who I've been is a fake! A fraud! A well-written story that had everyone fooled- myself included." His voice sounded hoarse, as though he'd done a lot of screaming recently.
"And now he's reclaimed his true identity as the Dark Lord." Bastila's smirk became a sinister smile. "And either you will help us overthrow Malak, or you will die."
"No!" Carth snarled, reaching for his blaster, to no avail. Aiden, now Revan, immobilized him with the Force before he could even reach the grip.
Bastila circled the now motionless soldier. "Not so brave now, are we, Captain Onasi?" Her fingers stroked the hilt of her double-bladed lightsaber. "Let me kill him, Revan."
"No," Revan said slowly. "I don't think you will."
"What?" Bastila looked at Revan in shock. "You're not going to leave him alive, are you?"
"I am." Revan moved to stand directly in front of Carth. "And I'm going to let him live, and rot on this Force-forsaken planet, where he can have the rest of his miserable life to contemplate his failure." His eyes narrowed, and he moved even closer and whispered so that only Carth could hear. "I know now that she never looked at me the way she looked at you. I would have loved Leiraya, if she hadn't been looking somewhere else. But now it looks like neither of us will have her." With that, he motioned to Bastila. "Come, my apprentice. It's time to finish Malak, for good."
Carth could not move, could not yell, could not do anything to stop them as they boarded the Ebon Hawk and took off. It was several minutes after they left before he could finally move again, and then he could only collapse on the beach and hold back bitter tears.
"Hey… hey Carth! What happened to the ship?"
Mission Vao's voice dragged Carth back to reality. He looked up at the blue-skinned twi'lek running towards him. "Revan… Bastila… dark side… they're gone…"
Mission looked as though she had been hit by a bombshell. "You mean… everyone?"
"I don't know what happened to Jolee, or Juhani, or…" she can't be dead. I'd know if Leiraya was dead.
"Well, have you looked for them?"
"I… no." Carth inwardly kicked himself, he should have thought of that much sooner.
"Don't you think we should?" she put one hand on her hip.
Zaalbar, who was close behind her, wuffled his agreement. "We must search for them, to know of their fate."
Carth picked himself up off the beach and brushed the sand off his armour. "All right… we should split up, the search will go faster that way. I'll head east, you guys can head north." After checking everyone's weapons, they commenced the search.
He had been searching for nearly an hour, with no sign of any sentient life forms, when he found her. Leiraya lay in a heap on the ground, barefooted and long chestnut hair ruffled by the wind. She looked… dead.
"But mommy didn't die!" Bryce interjected indignantly.
"Yes, son, I know that." Carth smiled sadly. "But I didn't know that then."
Suddenly, a new voice came from behind them. "Are you telling him that horrid story?"
Whipping his head around, he saw Leiraya standing in the doorway, looking somewhat less than pleased. "I… uh… he asked me to?"
Kicking the door stop out of the way, she entered the room and sat in the chair across from Carth and Bryce. "And that's supposed to let you off the hook?" She narrowed her eyes. "That's a scary story for a four-year-old to hear before bedtime."
"I'm brave!" Bryce piped in. "The waitress who cleaned up after I spit up the guunga fruit said so!" Seeing that his mother was less than convinced, he hastily added, "I asked for Pirates first."
"And I don't know that one," Carth explained. "Is that some Corellian thing?"
Ignoring him, Leiraya sighed. "Do you want me to tell you about the Pirates of Penzance?"
"Nuh-uh." Bryce shook his head violently. "I wanna know what happened when daddy got you in trouble."
"I did not get her in trouble," Carth protested. "Don't blame me for what happened, she got herself into trouble."
"Mommy never causes trouble." Bryce gave him a look that would have bordered on insubordinate, had he not been hugging an Ewok. "Isn't that right, mommy?"
Leiraya smiled. "Of course it is, sweetheart."
"Well, since you're never the one to cause trouble, why don't you finish the story?"
Leiraya sat back. "Well, I suppose I'll back up a few paces and explain how I got to where you found me…"
She had sensed the trouble almost as soon as it happened, and she ran to find him. Sprinting down the path towards the Temple of Ancients, she finally intercepted Aiden, who had Bastila with him.
"Thank goodness you two are okay!"
"Don't talk to me." Aiden pushed past her, nearly knocking her over. "I have nothing to say to you."
"What do you mean?" Leiraya looked confused. "Where are the others?"
"Do you not understand that he no longer cares for you?" Bastila smirked lazily. "He has me, and I will be the one to help him reclaim his rightful place as the Dark Lord."
"What are you talking about? Dark Lord? Where are Jolee and Juhani?" she demanded, and started to follow Aiden down the path. "Aiden, please talk to me-"
"ENOUGH!" he roared, pushing her back with a wave of Force energy so hard that she slammed into the cliff face. She collapsed to the ground, an imprint of her small frame left in the wall where she had hit.
The next thing she knew was lukewarm water splashing on her face, and the voice of Carth asking if she was all right.
"You talking to me?" she asked weakly.
"You're… you're alive!"
"Yeah, apparently." She slowly picked herself up and rubbed the back of her head. "Ouch."
"Don't get up too quickly," Carth tried to hold her down, but she waved him off. "I'm fine." Reaching out to the Force, she healed the minor scrapes and bruises, and found, much to her relief, that there were no major injuries.
"But where are the others?" Bryce demanded.
"You know, you're a hard kid to tell a story to," Leiraya stated mildly. "I mean, we're in the middle of a lost planet, our ship gone, the situation wasn't very pretty."
"Pretty is as pretty does," he offered. Seeing his mother's exasperated look, he innocently continued, "That's what you always told me."
"Jolee and Juhani were left for dead, but they didn't do a very good job of killing them, apparently." Carth jumped back in. "We found them not too much later, outside the Temple."
"Did they have bare feet like mommy?"
"No, mommy was the only one who refused to wear shoes." Carth grinned at his wife. "She's stubborn like that."
"Never saw the merit in them," she shrugged. "Someday, you'll come to see my point of view."
Deciding that feet were no longer an interesting point of conversation, Bryce continued his inquiry. "So how did you guys escape the lost planet?"
"Daddy had to fix one of the crashed ships," Leiraya explained. "It wasn't really made to carry people, but he managed to fix it so that it could carry Mission, Big Z, and the two of us."
"Daddy's a good ship fixer-upper?"
Leiraya smiled. "Yes, daddy's a good ship fixer-upper. He got us off that planet."
Bryce paused to digest this. "So I guess he didn't make too much trouble."
"No, he didn't." Leiraya stood and picked Bryce up. "And it's way past your bedtime, little mister."
Bryce yawned and wriggled out of her arms. "Okay, I'll go to bed now. But daddy had better not let mommy get hurt again," he said very seriously.
Carth ruffled Bryce's hair. "Don't worry, I promised your mother I'd keep her safe, and that's exactly what I'm going to do. Now off to bed with you."
The pitter-patter of his retreating feet created a soft cadence, and Leiraya followed close behind to make sure he actually went to bed. A few moments later, she came back out to the common room, where she found Carth staring out the large transparisteel window. It overlooked a strip of landing pads, and one could watch ships land and take off all day. The triplets had been fascinated with it, and would sit and watch the ships taking off for hours.
Sliding next to him and under his arm, Leiraya smiled at him. "You're not too bad of a storyteller."
"Thanks, I think. Even though it wasn't all my fault you got hurt."
"Of course it was." She grinned. "But I love you anyway."
"And I'm glad you do." He held her close as they watched the departing ships, drive tails creating twisting trails of light. He saw Leiraya's eyes begin to droop. "I think it's past our bedtime now, too."
She yawned, then nodded in agreement. "Yes, definitely. Busy day tomorrow. And no more scary stories for the kids." She sighed. "Not until they're a bit older."
"Okay, okay." They headed off to their bedroom. "But if I'm gonna tell them Pirates of Penzance, you've really got to tell me what that story is…"